Wednesday, July 30, 2014


The tests are back and the diagnosis for my friend is ALS.

It is a horrible, debilitating disease. It just slowly takes away your body. Not your mind--just your ability to function. Science has not found a cause or a cure.

And she says that she will do everything she can to live into her 90's. Exercise, eat right, keep working. All the things she is already doing. Only more so.

That's her plan. That's her outlook. That is now her passion.

That is her courage.

She will face this scary, awful thing and thumb her nose at it.

But I find myself unable to match her stubborn, to hell with it attitude. I am, for tonight, crushed.

I want to cry and hit things and throw things and scream. I want to stare at the ceiling fan as it goes round and round and not think of anything. I want to read a non-literature book and not notice the words.

I don't know what I would do if I got her diagnosis. I think I would cry and hit things and throw things and stare at the ceiling fan and walk around trying to not feel or think.

But because of her, because of her instant courage and determination, I would, I believe, at some point, get up and be stubborn and say to hell with it.

She is and always will be my friend and my hero. 

And lord knows, I can't let her be more stubborn than me! :'-}

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Something Old--Something New

Just so you know, I don't consider myself old.

I am older than I was and younger than I will be..... BUT

Exploring new ways and things does not mean you are so old that you can't do stuff.

I found the practice of criminal defense law, on a daily basis, to be toxic to me. (Yeah, it took 30 years to get to my limit. I had a good run and ruffled a lot of feathers. That was fun!)

So I began looking for other things that I would find meaningful and enjoyable. Stress was not the thing I needed to keep around.

I didn't want busy work. I wanted something more than that. Hell, housework is busy work to me

But that is another story....

I began examining weaving.

Don't know why that came to mind at the time. Maybe I was just a little warped.....

(oh, god. If you didn't groan at that I am in big trouble with my communication skills.)


I started attending a weaving class. And I found that it was fun.

A lot of fun.

Then the loom sorta fell into my lap (see previous blog posts for that story--it's a goody)

Then my weaving teacher fixed the loom and gave me a project.

Yesterday, the loom came home to stay.

Today I bought some yarn to go with the warp that the teacher had put on the loom for me.

Guess what I have been doing all evening?

I am having a really good time making something that can go on my floor or on my wall.

Geez, I like this new thing!!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Taking the Bar Exam

I have a friend who will be taking the Utah bar exam next week. She is a bit freaked. And that is a good thing.

For her, I am going to bore you all with my experience with this little, life-changing challenge.

I have to tell you that the day before I graduated from law school I got married. The invitations had a sepia toned drawing of a Victorian woman and man in wedding garb. Above their heads were bubbles that stated their thoughts. Hers read: "I hope I pass my board exam" and his read: "I hope she likes my cooking". Apropos at the time. But I digress......

The day after graduation I began studying for the bar. There were less than 60 days to prepare.

I did the special studying class thing. I took practice exams. I read, reread, outlined and re-outlined study material. I made flash cards. I made up guessing games. I read and reread and outlined my study notes. I memorized mnemonics. I did everything exactly as the study class people told me to do.

And the week before the exam I shut down. I packed up the study material. I put it all in my closet.

I prepared the plastic bag of pencils, erasers, and other items necessary to take the exam. I put that in my car.

I washed and dried the clothes I would wear for three days of the exam.

My aunt had made her house available to me for the noon breaks. I called to confirm (and found out that my lunch would be ready and in the refrigerator each day)

And then I watched television.

I wasn't speaking to anyone by this time. I was too focused for conversation. I was in a world of my own. Looking back I recognize the feeling of living in a hamster bubble. I could hear and see all that went on around me but I could not (and didn't want to) communicate.

On the day of the exam, I arrived 30 minutes early. That meant there was plenty of parking close to the examination hall.

And I remember the first question. It was an essay question. (In California, day one is devoted to essay questions only--three in the am and three in the pm) It was a Constitutional Law question.

To this day, I am convinced that the question was written by the professor who had taught the First Amendment class that I had finished just before graduation. I still remembered the citations for the cases that we covered and several where implicated in the question.

I remember the woman sitting next to me putting the question aside and going on to the next.

I plowed through it.

I don't remember a thing about the exam after that.

But I do remember the advise that my aunt gave me when I called her the week before the exam.

"Gaelann, do NOT talk to anyone during the exam. Not at the exam hall, not during lunch, not at night. Someone will ask you how it is going or how did you do and you will begin to doubt yourself. Do not doubt yourself. You have worked too hard to doubt yourself."

That is why her house was open to me for the lunch break. That is why my lunch was prepared for me. That is why the house was empty of humans when I went there.

That is why my advice to ANYONE taking a bar exam is the same as I give my criminal clients.

Don't talk to anyone. And don't let anyone talk to you.

Good luck, my friend. You won't need any luck, though. You are smart and tough and prepared.
Give 'em hell!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Rabbit Holes

There is news today that a federal judge (appointed by George W.) found the California death penalty process unconstitutional.

Being the trained professional that I am, I know better than to examine past acts (or cases) in light of current court rulings.


Which means, of course, that I had to look up the list of current death row inmates in California. Which means I looked up my client who resides in that particular neighborhood.

That lead to me following other Google searches to see if his appeals were about to be heard.

That caused me to find that the initial appeal had been denied last June. (He was convicted in 1999)

That lead me to read the synopsis of the denial. Which is how I found out that the major basis for the appeal was the failure of the trial court to grant MY change of venue motion. Apparently the Supreme Court found that we had 2 jurors who knew nothing about the case.

The interesting bit was that at least one member of the Supreme Court had problems with the way the issue of race was handled by the trial court. (my client was black and the female victim was white and we were in Bakersfield......) But that little problem wasn't enough to overturn a death sentence.

I NO LONGER PRACTICE!!! (I silently scream to myself)

But the anger and frustration rose in me like lava in an exploding volcano.

I was there. I saw the reactions of those jurors. I heard the judge say this case has nothing to do with race when it had EVERYTHING to do with race. I saw the press EVERY DAY. I read what they wrote.

That case stripped me of everything for awhile. I was mentally, emotionally and physically exhausted after it was over.  To this day, I do not believe that my client committed this crime.

I NO LONGER PRACTICE!! (I try to calmly remind myself)

Lesson from all of this?

1-I am still a lawyer. I will always be a lawyer.

2-Avoid rabbit holes that make you re-examine cases that are beyond your control.

3-Better yet, if you are curious, remember that you are only a bystander. It is beyond your control.

And now that I have splashed you all with the detritus of my rabbit hole excursion, I shall sit on my front porch with my spouse and my dog and the three dozen or so hummingbirds that have arrived for dinner. They all (spouse, dog and hummingbirds) understand where I went today.
But now I am back.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Making Room

I have spent the last two days moving things around in the "Cat Room". And before I go into the what and why of such energetic pursuits, let me explain.

While we were living in Bakersfield, we began collecting cats.

Like other folk, I started with one.

That was Titter. Her real name was Tatterhood. (She was named after the heroine in a Nordic myth) She was a beautiful calico that I rescued from a shelter in San Diego. She survived  numerous moves and was a great mouser.

Then there was Mithy. A gray cat that appeared to have a lot of Russian Blue in his genes. He was our fighter. But he was also very affectionate. He would sit on my lap while I studied Torts (or whatever) and purr as I had my emotional responses to the stresses of law school. Mithy was VERY special.

When Mel and I met we moved to a condominium and the cats became indoor cats. And the collection began.

Titter crossed the Bridge after a kidney infection and we began looking for another cat.

And we met a woman that bred Cornish Rex cats. She lived in Buttonwillow and she was the quintessential crazy cat lady. We adopted two. A female kitten and a "retired" tom that had been neutered. They became known as Lady Tiara Rex (TeesaButts) and Spot.

But that is how the "Cat Room" got started. Spot was fine with other cats in a confined space. So we took our extra bedroom and put the litter boxes, the cat trees, and all the other accoutrements of cat living in that room.  We even put a rocking chair in there and I would sit and read out loud to the cats. Spot would crawl on my lap (and under anything that would keep him warm) and be rocked and read to by the hour.

Then we rescued two more. Enter Diamond and Putter.

But we discovered that all the cats would find a space that was just theirs in that room. There was peace. And separate bathrooms for each. (Now THAT was a chore!)

 Moving to the country meant that the Cat Room would double as my office/workroom. Which is a little odd but the house is smaller than our previous quarters. There are just two cats now and, if truth be told, I don't mind a cat on my lap!

My computer is there. My phone charger is there. Anything work related is there. The cat trees are there. The litter boxes are there. (Kept in meticulous order, thank you...) And there is a large window that provides plenty of sunlight.

But then I took up weaving. And I got a loom.

And the loom has to go somewhere.

So for two days, I moved and vacuumed (cat hair is a sneaky thing...) and rearranged. I cleaned the closet, stuffed things in boxes to go to our new storage shed, and reduced clutter.

And now there is a four foot space on a wall for the loom. 

But I have been informed that the room is still the Cat Room. But they promise to watch me weave from the assorted cat trees. They are not interested in becoming a part of the fabric..........